Why Shalane Flanagan is running Boston Marathon rather than retiring

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Ninety minutes after winning the New York City Marathon on Nov. 5, Shalane Flanagan was unsure if she would, at age 36, continue her competitive distance-running career. The next morning, still, the four-time Olympian hadn’t yet processed what to do after her landmark accomplishment.

But by early December, a month after crossing the Central Park finish line, Flanagan had decided.

“My heart said……give it one more chance, try again,” was posted on her social media Dec. 11. “See everyone in Boston on Patriots Day…”

Two hours earlier, Boston Marathon organizers had announced the elite U.S. runners for the April 16 race that finishes 20 miles southwest of Flanagan’s childhood hometown of Marblehead. Flanagan was first on the list.

“I just kind of visualized on Patriots’ Day, if I were sitting in the stands cheering on people versus standing on the starting line in Hopkinton,” Flanagan said the day after the Boston Marathon field announcement, according to the Boston Globe. “I felt like I would be really sad to be not participating, and I would rather be on the starting line. I don’t want to have any regrets about passing up the opportunity.’’

Flanagan looked to her past, too, in deciding. She found unfinished business. Flanagan finished ninth the last time she ran the Boston Marathon in 2015, in 20 mph winds and rain, after placing fourth and fifth the previous two years.

She revealed in a finish-line interview an unspecified setback three months earlier that jeopardized whether she would start the race.

“I could just tell the pounding, the typical Boston course, my legs felt it,” Flanagan said on Boylston Street in 2015, one year after running the fastest Boston Marathon ever by an American woman in 2:22:02. “I tried to talk them [my legs] out of slowing down, but they didn’t want to listen.”

The emotion was apparent in Flanagan’s tone.

“I was pretty devastated after, because I haven’t had many bad races and it was, by far, one of the bigger stinkers that I’ve laid,” Flanagan said in a Runner’s World story published earlier this spring. “I don’t want to end my career having that be the representation and the feelings associated with Boston. So I just thought, at least let’s end on a higher note than that.”

The last U.S. female runner to win Boston was Lisa Larsen Weidenbach in 1985. Flanagan is not alone in trying to end the drought.

The field also includes Jordan Hasay, third in Boston last year in her marathon debut, and Desi Linden, second in Boston in 2011 and fourth in 2015 and 2017. Plus Molly Huddle, the American record holder at 10,000m who is running her second marathon after placing third in New York City in 2016.

Flanagan has been quoted saying that she doesn’t have a specific time or result goal. That she’s at peace with her career now that she has a major title. That she isn’t running Boston on April 16 because she has to do it, but because she wants to. What does she want? A new memory in case this is the last time.

“If I walked away tomorrow, I feel really happy as an athlete and as a person,” Flanagan said in a Flotrack interview in January. “There was still that lingering, one little tick in the box that I really, really wanted. I just couldn’t let that go. Once I said yes, though, my mind shifted from enjoying New York a little bit to then, all of a sudden, the burden of Boston.”

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MORE: U.S. elite field for Boston Marathon

Kenenisa Bekele still eyes Eliud Kipchoge’s marathon world record, but a duel must wait

Kenenisa Bekele
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LONDON — Kenenisa Bekele made headlines last week by declaring “of course I am the best” long distance runner ever. But the Ethiopian was fifth-best at Sunday’s London Marathon, finishing 74 seconds behind Kenya’s Amos Kipruto.

Bekele, 40, clocked 2:05:53, the fastest-ever marathon by a runner 40 years or older. He was with the lead pack until being dropped in the 21st mile.

But Bekele estimated he could have run 90 to 120 seconds faster had he not missed parts of six weeks of training with hip and joint injuries.

“I expect better even if the preparation is short,” he said. “I know my talent and I know my capacity, but really I couldn’t achieve what I expect.”

Bekele is the second-fastest marathoner in history behind Kenya’s Eliud Kipchoge, who broke his own world record by clocking 2:01:09 at the Berlin Marathon last week.

“I am happy when I see Eliud Kipchoge run that time,” Bekele said. “It motivates all athletes who really expect to do the same thing.”

LONDON MARATHON: Results

Bekele’s best time was within two seconds of Kipchoge’s previous world record (2:01:39). He described breaking Kipchoge’s new mark as the “main goal” for the rest of his career.

“Yes, I hope, one day it will happen, of course,” Bekele said. “With good preparation, I don’t know when, but we will see one more time.”

Nobody has won more London Marathons than Kipchoge, a four-time champion who set the course record (2:02:37) in 2019. But the two-time Olympic marathon champion did not run this year in London, as elite marathoners typically choose to enter one race each spring and fall.

Bekele does not know which race he will enter in the spring. But it will not be against Kipchoge.

“I need to show something first,” Bekele said. “I need to run a fast time. I have to check myself. This is not enough.”

Kipchoge will try to become the first runner to win three Olympic marathon titles at the Paris Games. Bekele, who will be 42 in 2024, has not committed to trying to qualify for the Ethiopian team.

“There’s a long time to go before Paris,” Bekele said. “At this moment I am not decided. I have to show something.”

So who is the greatest long distance runner ever?

Bekele can make a strong case on the track:

Bekele
Four Olympic medals (three gold)
Six World Championship medals (five gold)
Former 5000m and 10,000m world-record holder

Kipchoge
Two Olympic medals
Two World Championship medals (one gold)

But Kipchoge can make a strong case on the pavement:

Bekele
Second-fastest marathoner in history
Two World Marathon Major victories

Kipchoge
Four of the five best marathon times in history
Two-time Olympic marathon champion
12 World Marathon Major victories

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Yalemzerf Yehualaw, Amos Kipruto win London Marathon

Yalemzerf Yehualaw
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Ethiopian Yalemzerf Yehualaw became the youngest female runner to win the London Marathon, while Kenyan Amos Kipruto earned the biggest victory of his career in the men’s race.

Yehualaw, 23, clocked 2:17:26, prevailing by 41 seconds over 2021 London champ Joyciline Jepkosgei of Kenya.

Yehualaw tripped and fell over a speed bump around the 20-mile mark. She quickly rejoined the lead pack, then pulled away from Jepkosgei by running the 24th mile in a reported 4:43, which converts to 2:03:30 marathon pace; the women’s world record is 2:14:04.

Yehualaw and Jepkosgei were pre-race favorites after world record holder Brigid Kosgei of Kenya withdrew Monday with a right hamstring injury.

On April 24, Yehualaw ran the fastest women’s debut marathon in history, a 2:17:23 to win in Hamburg, Germany.

She has joined the elite tier of female marathoners, a group led by Kenyan Peres Jepchirchir, the reigning Olympic, New York City and Boston champion. Another Ethiopian staked a claim last week when Tigist Assefa won Berlin in 2:15:37, shattering Yehualaw’s national record.

Joan Benoit Samuelson, the first Olympic women’s marathon champion in 1984, finished Sunday’s race in 3:20:20 at age 65.

LONDON MARATHON: Results

Kipruto, 30, won the men’s race in 2:04:39. He broke free from the leading group in the 25th mile and crossed the finish line 33 seconds ahead of Ethiopian Leul Gebresilase, who said he had hamstring problems.

Kipruto, one of the pre-race favorites, had never won a major marathon but did finish second behind world record holder Eliud Kipchoge in Tokyo (2022) and Berlin (2018) and third at the world championships (2019) and Tokyo (2018).

Ethiopian Kenenisa Bekele, the second-fastest marathoner in history, was fifth after being dropped in the 21st mile. His 2:05:53 was the fastest-ever marathon by a runner 40 years or older. Bekele ran his personal best at the 2019 Berlin Marathon — 2:01:41 — and has not run within four minutes of that time since.

The major marathon season continues next Sunday with the Chicago Marathon, headlined by a women’s field that includes Kenyan Ruth Chepngetich and American Emily Sisson.

London returns next year to its traditional April place after being pushed to October the last three years due to the pandemic.

MORE: Bekele looks ahead to Kipchoge chase after London Marathon

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